The list is a good one, but I’d have included The Set-up, Requiem for a Heavyweight and a couple more from the Rocky series and Paradise Alley. (Would you expect any less?)
Here’s what Grierson and Leitch said about Rocky and Creed:
28. Creed (2015)
The Rocky series had run out of gas several times by the time Ryan Coogler got together with his Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan to inject the whole franchise with adrenaline and soul … and even liven up old Rock himself in the process. The best scenes of Creed aren’t even about boxing at all, as we see young Adonis Creed struggle with his identity, his purpose in life, and the power of his feelings for a young, hearing-impaired musician (played wonderfully by Tessa Thompson). Putting Rocky Balboa in the Paulie role is a brilliant idea, and the relationship between the young boxer and his trainer works … and even manages to transcend the whole 40-year-old enterprise.
3. Rocky (1976)
Roger Ebert famously wrote, in his initial review of Rocky, that Sylvester Stallone reminded him of a young Brando, and while that classification hasn’t, uh, aged so well, you can understand what he was thinking. Before all the sequels, before the montage sequences, before Stallone became a muscled, chiseled ode to misguided masculinity, he was just a guy who wanted to tell a story about a past-his-prime palooka who met a girl and then suddenly finally got his chance at the big time. This is a big hokey underdog story, but it’s told with a grit and realism that matches the era; Rocky’s just a good-hearted schmo from the neighborhood who doesn’t have the stomach to break thumbs for the mob but isn’t sure what else the world has for him either. But he’s got heart, kid. This series is more than 40 years old now, but, as Creed showed, this story remains eternal. It’s probably going to outlive us all. Even Stallone.